Channel One, the Anti-Commercial Principle, and the Discontinuous Ethos

Review of Channel One, the Anti-Commercial Principle, and the Discontinuous Ethos By Harry Brighouse

            In his essay Channel One, the Anti-Commercial Principle, and the Discontinuous Ethos, Harry Brighouse addresses the issue of commercialization in schools. Contrary to popular discontent, Brighouse argues that it is not corporations, but school administrators that are doing something wrong when they allow commercialization into schools. From this premise he constructs supporting argumentation that calls the school ethos into question.

Brighouse explains that the Anti-Commercialization Principle is more deeply rooted in the principle that the ethos of the schools should be discontinuous from mainstream culture and home in order to promote the capacity for student autonomy. The Anti-Commercialization Principle resides in idea that students have a vested interest in becoming autonomous, self governing persons. Schools exist to foster students academic learning in a discontinuous environment, free from prevailing influences of mainstream culture and the home. Only under discontinuity can alternative ways of life be objectively examined and internally endorsed by students. This autonomy, necessary for identifying and practicing ways of life, is undermined by the commercialization of a school by invading the discontinuity offered by schools.

Brighouse repudiates the various arguments in favor of the bargain trade off by highlighting the politicization of funding that occurs when budget cut off advocates rely on corporations to fill certain resource needs, which leads to further promotion of commercialization. Brighouse also dismisses the notion that any cost-benefit analyses can be derived that would justify the commercial bargains due to the lack of the calculability of value factors like education forgone. Such factors cannot be feasible calculated since every moment in the classroom forgone is different than the next. In his last Analysis, Brighouse examines whether watching commercials contains a distinctive cost. He concludes that even the best most sound advertisements are inherently flawed and have no legitimate educational purpose. This is due to the very nature of advertisements that seeks to bypass rational thought in order to appeal to the desires and appetite.

Brighouse refrains from saying that commercial bargains can never be justified because such a prohibitive claims could never be legally framed. Additionally, this would cause us to overlook the general attitude of school administrations and the ethos of the school.  Lastly we says that while it is highly unlikely commercialization is ever permissible, there are extreme circumstances facing seriously underfunded schools that could possible benefit.

In order to understand the anti-commercialization principle, one needs to understand the purpose of education in the first place. According to Brighouse, school is a place where students seek refuge from prevailing influences in their lives in order to develop an autonomy that is required for raising a critical awareness. This critical awareness is essential for looking at influences objectively. Only when this happens are students able to make decisions as humans about their reality.

Generally speaking, social structures within a culture and society are concentrically reflected at all levels of relationships. The  values and beliefs within these structures are likewise reflected at each level, starting with the family and working its way up to the community, state, and federal level. InAmerica, patriarchal domination, consumerism, and notions of individualism are just some of the values that characterize these structures. While ideally school is a place to seek refuge from these structures, it is, dare say, impossible to separate school from its culture influences altogether. With this knowledge, then, administrators and citizens need to make decisions which influence and values it allows a school to share.

Since consumerism is a trademark of the American culture, and a reason for our burgeoning economic success, it is without wonder that the topic of commercialization is brought up. Commercialization is the out springing of this consumerism. However, it is in my opinion that consumerism is an ideal that is most damaging to our humanity. I posit that by allowing the commercialization into schools, we are essentially dehumanizing students by robbing them of the autonomous freedom necessary to raise a critical awareness.

The effect of losing this critical awareness is a student who passively accepts values and beliefs from trusted sources rather than objectively deriving them from their own experience. Of all the trusted sources of information—parents, media, news, teachers, government, and even peers—it is the teacher’s job to provide the student with the tools to seek beyond biases and objectively deduce their own values, and it is the classroom is where this happens. Despite any perceived benefits and tradeoffs, by allowing the commercialization of school, we are perpetuating the values and beliefs of our overall culture that consumerism and, most of all, the passive ingestion of pre-cognized information is healthy.

In addition to this violation to the process of raising a critical awareness, I argue that consumerism is not inherently healthy.  Materialism robs people of their autonomy and freedom by emphasizing the value of materialism and sends the message of the importance of ‘having’ which separates people as the ‘have’s’ and ‘have not’s’. This message devalues the unity of human relationships and casts a direct conflict to the autonomy and freedom of humanity.

As humans, we should see our fellow man not as what he has, but what he is. In this way we learn from each other and exercise our freedom to explore and transform dilemmas together. It is important for classrooms to be totally free of any prevailing cultural influence to the best of the school administrations ability. This means making sacrifices to technology and ‘tools’ that seemingly make life easier, but in reality sacrifice our humanity and critical awareness.

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